AAR/SBL 2021: See you in Denver!

This was originally posted on November 23rd, 2021.

It may be due to having not attended an in-person conference last year but on the last day that I attended AAR/SBL 2021, I went to three sessions. Well, maybe four half-sessions is more accurate. Either way, I attended a lot more sessions than I’m prone to do on the final day.

My final day was Monday. I didn’t go downtown or sign on to any sessions today.

In the morning, I heard a couple of papers at the Johannine Literature session. Wil Rogan’s “Echoes of Sinai beyond the Jordan: Ritual Purity and Revelation in the Fourth Gospel” was packed with helpful insights but the two that stood out to me came during his Q&A. I tweeted the following as a reminder:
A couple of insights I want to remember from this paper’s Q&A:

(1) the foot washing = probably not an act of ritual purity but Peter wants to make it one; (2) JtBaptist = like Moses as purifier of Israel (Exod 19:10-11; cf. John 1:14-18).

Rogan suggested that when Peter says in John 13:9 “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” that he’s trying to avoid Jesus’ act being one of his master/teacher serving him because that discomforts him; instead he prefers to see Jesus as performing a ritual cleansing. Jesus rejects this move saying to Peter in 13:10, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”

Then I heard Lee Douglas Hoffer’s “Jesus’s Obfuscatory Speech and the Motif of Misunderstanding in the Fourth Gospel” where he did a great job presenting Jesus as “the Isaianic agent of Israel’s hardening”. My friend Marc wanted to catch the Qumran/Historical Jesus sessions, so we headed there next to hear most of Yair Furstenberg’s thought-provoking “The Limited Scope of Jewish Law in the Second Temple Period: A Sectarian Perspective”. In essence, if I understood him, he saw Torah-enforcement as being uncommon for most people and that most local courts settled matters under Roman authority. Jesus and Qumran exhibit an alternate path that rejects the courts of the “nations” in favor of an internal, communal system based.

We finished that Qumran/Historical Jesus session with a couple of good papers from Hannah Harrington (“Purity, the Scrolls, and Jesus”) and Jeffery Garcia (“‘Support the Poor’: Charity in the Damascus Document and Matthew’s Gospel as a Case of Mutual Illumination”). Then in the afternoon I mixed wondering the book halls, saying hi to friends, and a paper from the Gospel of Mark session (Josef Sykora’s “Hope for Dogs: The Syrophoenician Woman in Mark 7:24-30 as the Unchosen Who Saves Her Children”) with the presentations from the Racism, Pedagogy, and Biblical Studies panel. My allergies were wicked yesterday, so I didn’t stick around for the subsequent discussion. It was time to go home.

And now my first “in-person” conference since the beginning of the pandemic has come to an end. It was fun and refreshing even if the attendance was thinner and the atmosphere a little strange with us all wearing masks. Hopefully, when we gather in Denver next year, it’ll all feel a little more “normal” (whatever that means now).


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